Vanishing Species / Forever Stamps

In the time of coronavirus, every tidbit of news that breaks through the noise and touches our awareness has the potential to become ingrained in our overall experience in meaningful ways. What manages to stick can be very personal. How will we look back? What will the sensory triggers to remembering all of this be?

During these challenging times, the already struggling United States Postal Service is under threat in favor of privatization and corporations. This is also due to a long and winding presidential grudge against Amazon, the Washington Post, the media and ultimately, the truth. So to show support I purchased stamps. I enjoyed browsing the wide array of themes on the USPS website and I finally landed on the ‘Saving Vanishing Species’ set pictured with this post. It resonated with me because of another story popping in and out of my sight lines on a daily basis now.
Horrified, and admittedly captivated, Jeff and I watched the entire Tiger King docu-series while sheltering at home in Buffalo, Ny. It’s easy to dismiss the show as merely spectacle, and from what I’ve read, it appears that it was edited and engineered with the goal of creating a golden nugget of money making entertainment. But there’s more to it, I think. As the series unravels, we’re introduced to the ultra tan, roadside zoo keeper, Joe Exotic. His wild hairstyle and paranoid rants against his arch enemy, Carole Baskin eerily mirror our own president’s demeanor as he rails against imaginary foes like the “fake news media” and the Deep State in his daily coronavirus press briefings. But what struck me most about Tiger King is the rare glimpse into the subculture the show’s cast of unseemly characters reveals. I was already skeptical about the idea of wild animals as pets, but I wasn’t fully aware of the atrocities that were laid bare here. There are far fewer tigers living in the wild than living in captivity. Less than 5% of captive tigers in the US belong to one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning the rest fall outside of federal oversight. Further research tells me that “poaching and illegal wildlife trade is the most immediate threat to wild tigers. Every part of the tiger, from whisker to tail has been found in illegal wildlife markets.” Learning this and seeing how the big cats were treated in the show, caused me to feel deep sadness for the animals. In a time when 20,000 + Americans have died and the president is incapable of expressing even a hint of empathy, this kind of sadness can take a firm hold. In my opinion, opening ourselves up to witnessing potentially unpleasant things can help us gain perspective. Tiger King activated something in me, and as a result I want to do more. I know my $13.00 purchase of first class stamps is not going to save the tigers or the USPS, for that matter, but I can be a voice for change and I can do more.
When the stamps arrive in the mail, I’ll add them to the small collection I’ve accumulated over the years. When I come across them again in the future several things may come to mind. I’ll remember sheltering at home with Jeff, a new found empathy for tigers, and a feeling of searching for some kind of meaning in it all. I’ll also remember the rage I felt upon realizing that this attack on the post office is an attack on the November election.